Help your pet deal with the heat

HILL AIR FORCE BASE — It’s hot out there — not only for humans, but for animals as well, so when you’re looking for ways to beat the heat, don’t forget to keep your furry friends in mind, too.

The first thing to be aware of is the danger of leaving a pet inside a parked car during the summer months. Dr. Melanie Swartz, chief veterinarian at Hill AFB Veterinary Services, said even if someone parks in the shade and leaves the windows cracked, vehicles can exceed 120 degrees in a matter of minutes.

“Animals can overheat in just a few minutes when exposed to the temperatures vehicles reach in the summer,” she said. “The shade will move as the sun passes through the sky and what was once shade will now be in the sun. It’s best to leave animals at home or take them out of the car to accompany you.”

According to the Humane Society, leaving your pet in a hot car can cause irreversible organ damage, or even death. Even if it’s only 72 degrees Fahrenheit outside, the temperature in your car can heat up to 116 degrees within an hour, and rolling down the windows has been shown to have little effect on the temperature inside a vehicle.

Swartz also said it’s best to walk your dogs in the cool morning before the pavement gets hot.

“As a rule of thumb, if you cannot stand comfortably in your bare feet on the hot pavement, they should not walk on it either,” Swartz said. “Although it may be cooler in the evening, the pavement will retain the heat and may still be too hot to walk on. Always check the pavement first.”

All pets should have free access to an abundance of clean, fresh water available at all times, with enough volume in their dish that they won’t run out for 24 hours, Swartz said. All dishes should be dumped and refilled at least daily to ensure sufficient clean water is available at all times.

In addition to caring for dogs in the heat, Swartz said, cats can suffer heat injury as well, especially if they get locked into a trailer, RV or vehicle or trapped in a sunny location without access to water or shade. 

“Besides an indoor lifestyle being safer for cats overall, it is better to keep them inside where it is cool with lots of fresh water,” she said. 

Extreme temperatures can cause heat stroke. Swartz said symptoms to look for include heavy, uncontrollable panting; panting that doesn’t stop if you blow in their face; glazed eyes; red or purple mucous membranes; high heart rate and depression. Other symptoms can include drooling, mild weakness, seizures, vomiting, an elevated body temperature, stupor or even collapse. 

“Owners should seek immediate emergency veterinary care, as this is a life-threatening situation,” Swartz said. “Short-faced breeds such as bulldogs, Boston terriers, Persian cats, and long-haired dog and cat breeds are extremely susceptible to heat stress and should be monitored even more closely for signs they are overheating.”

Horses typically do not suffer from heat injury unless they are working, Swartz said. Most horses can do fine with access to water and shade. Horses that are working can develop heat injury and will have an elevated heart and respiratory rate, may stop sweating, and may have an elevated body temperature. Swartz said they can die if they are not cooled off.

“Most of this can be addressed through careful conditioning of your horse for exercise and working in the cooler parts of the day,” she said. 

Some other ways you can help cool your pet include plastic swimming pools for dogs, a shade cloth, misting units if the animal must be outside, fans and portable swamp coolers and air conditioning units. Horses often enjoy and will stand in front of a box fan under their shelter for relief from both the heat and flies. In addition, while you may think shaving your pet will help it stay cool, its fur actually acts as a body temperature regulator. Giving your pup a nice haircut and brushing your cat daily can help them stay cool. 

Allowing pets to seek the coolest parts of your house is always best, Swartz said. Offering ice water is also OK. Sometimes the novelty of the ice will encourage them to drink and play in the water and increase their hydration, Swartz said. 

However, do not submerge an overheated animal into ice water. They must be cooled gradually to avoid complications. Also, never let your pet drink or bathe in secondary water. Because it’s untreated, they, like us, can get intestinal and skin infections.

The Humane Society also has a homemade recipe for peanut butter “pup-sicles:”

Peanut Butter Popsicles

1 cup peanut butter, preferably unsalted and unsweetened

Half a ripe banana, mashed

Water as needed

In a small mixing bowl, combine peanut butter with a little water or half of a mashed banana. (The water and banana aren’t essential, but they help with freezing consistency.)

Line a cookie sheet with wax paper, or use Kong-style rubber toys that have a cavity you can fill.

Spoon the mixture onto the tray just like you would cookie dough, or stuff it into the toys. Freeze the tray or toys for several hours or overnight. If you need to reuse the tray right away, pop out the cubes and store them in a bag or container in the freezer.

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